Atget: Part deux
I didn’t do it on purpose.
In my previous post, I wrote about the effect on me of an exhibit of the photographs of Eugene Atget I saw nearly 50 years ago. Looking at those images at the Museum of Modern Art in New York all those years ago eventually led me to loosen up my own approach to making pictures.
Where I had been a disciple of Modernism in photography, from Stieglitz to Strand to Weston to Adams, I realized, looking at the Frenchman’s photos, that a looser, more direct approach to the art might be more productive.
And, in fact, I gave up attempting to make precious jewel-like prints matted in perfect ivory mattes and framed in black aluminum section frames.
But I had no intention of mimicking Atget’s pictures. Please believe me, I didn’t do this on purpose.
As I look through the many images I have taken in Paris and in France, I find that there are so many parallels to the pictures of Atget.
I found myself making records of so many curious and interesting corners of the city, so many details, so many textures and lines, so many storefronts and alleyways, that I could hardly help myself.
Because I have come to find more interest in reacting to the world around me than in creating what receives the imprimatur of art.
Being awake and aware of my milieu is what drives me, makes me happy, gives me esthetic fulfillment.
So, here I have taken some of my photos and edited them, making them black and white and toning them sepia.
I do not mean for you to believe I am trying to make art here, merely to play a little game, matching up images.
Many others have taken their cameras around the city of light and consciously mimicked Atget’s work in an exercise of “rephotography,” a Postmodern trope. I am intending no such thing.
I merely enjoy the little joke of finding in my work these unconscious rhymes with the work of a photographer I have loved for all these years, but haven’t given a whole lot of thought to in decades.
Such is influence, I guess. You don’t always know it’s there. And you don’t consciously attempt to counterfeit your model.
But somehow, it has worked its way into your bones, into the way you approach the world, the way you understand it.
So, here are a group of parallel images. Those on the left are by Eugène Atget, those on the right are mine, albeit gussied up to amplify their similarity to my progenitor.
I hope you find a twinkle of pleasure in this game. And it is just a game.
Click to enlarge any image